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Publisher's Summary

"It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon..." This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red's father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red's grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the 21st century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humor, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler's work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

©2015 Anne Tyler (P)2015 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Tyler show[s] once again that she's a gifted and engrossing storyteller." ( Publishers Weekly)
"...Tyler is as fleet and graceful as a skater, her prose as transparent as ice... We get swept up in the spin of conversations, the slipstream of consciousness, and the glide and dip of domestic life, then feel the sting of Tyler's quick and cutting insights into unjust assumptions about class, gender, age, and race... Tyler's long dedication to language and story [is] an artistic practice made perfect in this charming, funny, and shrewd novel of the paradoxes of self, family, and home." (Donna Seaman, Booklist)
"It is wonderful to pick up a novel from a bonafide literary superstar. A Spool of Blue Thread is Anne Tyler's 20th novel and it shows in every flawless sentence... A stunning novel about family life which just rings so true - it depicts the bonds and the tensions, the love and the exasperation beautifully... A terrific novel." ( The Bookseller, UK (Book of the Month))
"Narrator Kimberly Farr's experience with character-driven novels is evident from her nuanced performance of this compelling story.... One key to Farr's success with this audiobook is the wide range of emotions she employs to capture the characters' individual temperaments as they cope with marriage, parenthood, aging, and adult sibling rivalry." ( AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

From a LONG Time Anne Tyler fan

I believe I have read or listen to everything Anne Tyler has ever written. This book presents a few of her best and most often portrayed characters- the naive, slightly ditsy woman, the errant child and the place that is more a character than a setting.

I loved this story and the people in it. Maybe it's time I started over and read them all again!

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Sharp Edge Of Family

It has been years since I have read a book written by Anne Tyler and this is the first one of her books that I have listened to as a recording. What a treat. Kimberly Farr's narration was excellent and added to the positive experience of the novel. I thought the timing and the general tone were perfect. Farr was able to capture the quirkiness and wistfulness of the story and characters beautifully.

Thoughtful, heartbreaking, funny, multidimensional and insightful--the book is beautifully written. I just love the way Tyler describes each scene and paints the picture of the story--filling the book with rich color and detail. The dialogue and family interaction feels real to me and is engaging. All of these elements meld together and make for a wonderful novel. Worth the time spent listening and recommended if you enjoy a quirky multigenerational family saga.

56 of 60 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Sad When It Was Over

Sad that the book was over, as it was a pleasure to listen to and to mull. And sad that the family's time together in their cherished house had to come to its inevitable end. Anne Tyler recaptures her early greatness with this lovely book that highlights her insights into family, life and the unstoppable passage of time. I enjoyed Part 1 the most but found Parts 2 and 3 to be intriguing bonuses as they looked at the young lives of the earlier generations -- the older folks who, unbeknownst to their children and grandchildren, also had some crazy days of their own. If this is Anne Tyler's last book (as some have said?), she is clearly going out on a high note. P.S. The narrator was perfect!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jean
  • Reston, Virginia
  • 03-25-15

MIddling Anne Tyler

I've read every AT book since Morgan's Passing. Some I have loved, like Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Others were just okay. It began to feel like I was reading the same book over and over. Not because of the Baltimore setting, but because her wonderfully crafted and flawed characters seemed to stay stuck in their dysfunction, never learning anything that would make their lives better. It got to be frustrating. Not that I needed every ending tied up in a pink bow, but give me a little sense of the evolution in thinking and growing in her characters.

This book was pretty uneven, dragging in spots. Some plot lines were great and I would have liked more of, like Junior and Linnie Mae's early days. Denny's storyline meandered in not very interesting directions. And I wish someone would have really let him have it about his popping in and out of everyone's lives when it suited him!

Finally, the narrator left me cold. Her precise schoolteacher diction just wasn't right for this book.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A family legacy

This was a very moving story about a family, and a house over generations.

My sister and I both were listening to it at the same time, and found it rather depressing; not to say that I didn't enjoy the story, but it was sad. It tells a tale of family that isn't pretty and sparkly, it shows the more realistic side of family, the hard parts, the battles. It made me feel happy and sad at the same time.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sierra
  • Arden, NC, US
  • 02-26-15

Ann Tyler doing what she does best

Well read version of her newest book, an adventure into the life of a family from grandparents to grandchildren. The inequities, the family stories, the portrayal of real people through time.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • D. Sevener
  • Springfield, IL United States
  • 02-24-15

Disappointed

As a big fan of Anne Tyler, I was disappointed that I couldn't wait for this book to end. I simply did not find the characters as engaging as I am accustomed to with Tyler's novels and did not find the story compelling either. For the first time, I felt the pace dragged, the story meandered, and the characterization uneven.

The narration didn't help; if anything it reinforced the plodding tempo of the book. Worse, the narrator sounded like a third grade teacher reading to her students.

There are a few Tyler tales I have yet to read, and although I won't delete her from my reading list, I may be a bit more cautious in my next selection.

27 of 32 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A lot to think about

The characters were so real and the problems are problems that so many families face. Especially with people living longer and having to give up the life they always lived

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • De
  • 02-20-15

A must-read spool

My first Anne Tyler book. Enjoyed her descriptive phrases. Chose this novel after reading the positive review in the New York Times on Sunday, February 15, 2015. Everyone has characters like this in their own families.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Plodding but worth it. Needs a sequel.

Would you consider the audio edition of A Spool of Blue Thread to be better than the print version?

The reader is good and does a plausible southern accent

What did you like best about this story?

It was worth plodding through this just to hear about the saga of the porch swing. It brought to light the different values of the married couple. She wanted the porch swing to be blue because it reminded her of a beloved neighbor whose family she wanted to belong. He wanted it varnished to look classy and impress the neighbors. It was resolved in a telling way.

If you could rename A Spool of Blue Thread, what would you call it?

The porch swing.

Any additional comments?

The book ended somewhat abruptly but many of the characters grew in so many ways. I was left feeling slightly unsatisfied. I may read it again to pick up more insights I missed the first time. I would love a sequel.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful